Orrick Johns

(1887-1946 / United States)

Biography of Orrick Johns

Orrick Glenday Johns (born June 2, 1887 - July 8, 1946) was an American poet and playwright and was part of the literary group that included T. S. Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway. He was active in the Communist Party.

Johns was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to George Sibley Johns and Minnehaha McDearmon. He lost a leg as a child in St. Louis to a streetcar accident. He won a poetry contest in 1912 hosted by The Lyric Year, despite competing against Edna St. Vincent Millay's famed Renascence, a victory he felt was misjudged. His first wife was the artist Margarite Frances Baird, also known as Peggy Baird. His second wife was Carolyn Blackman. She was plagued by anorexia and mental illness, and was probably the love of his life. They had a daughter, Charis. His third wife was Doria Berton, mother of his daughter, Deborah. His death was by suicide in Connecticut.

He is mentioned in Kenneth Rexroth's poem, "Thou Shalt Not Kill", as "hopping into the surf on his one leg".

His works include:

1917 - Asphalt and Other Poems

1920 - Black Branches, A Book of Poetry and Plays

1925 - Blindfold, a novel

1926 - Wild Plum: Lyrics, with Sonnets to Charis

1937 - Time of Our Lives: The Story of My Father and Myself, autobiography

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The Interpreter

In the very early morning when the light was low
She got all together and she went like snow,
Like snow in the springtime on a sunny hill,
And we were only frightened and can't think still.

We can't think quite that the katydids and frogs
And the little crying chickens and the little grunting hogs,
And the other living things that she spoke for to us
Have nothing more to tell her since it happened thus.

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